Ex-Atty. Gen. Thomas Lynch Dies of Cancer

Times Staff Writer

Former California Atty. Gen. Thomas C. Lynch, a career prosecutor who was the only Democrat to win statewide office during Ronald Reagan’s 1966 gubernatorial sweep, died Thursday in San Francisco of cancer. He was 83.

Lynch, who retired in 1970 after 37 years of public service and entered a private law practice, had been hospitalized earlier in the week at Mount Zion Hospital, former Gov. Edmund G. (Pat) Brown, who appointed Lynch attorney general in 1964, said Saturday.

Lynch had been ill from cancer for at least six years, said state Supreme Court Justice Stanley Mosk, Lynch’s predecessor in the attorney general’s office.

“He was very sick, and was barely surviving,” Mosk said. “He still had his name on a law office door, but he was hardly ever there.” He handled special cases for the San Francisco law firm of Gerald Marcus.


Mosk described Lynch as a “great lawyer and outstanding public servant. He maintained the high qualities of law enforcement which I had installed in the office. He was very successful in everything he undertook.”

“He was one of the most outstanding lawyers I have ever known,” Brown said. “He was not flamboyant or sensational. But he was a great prosecutor.”

Before being appointed to the attorney general’s post by Brown when Mosk was elevated to the state Supreme Court, Lynch had been state campaign chairman for former Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and for Brown’s reelection as governor in 1962.

Born in San Francisco, Lynch attended Santa Clara University and the University of San Francisco Law School. After passing the California Bar, he became an insurance underwriter and, three years later, joined the San Francisco district attorney’s office.


Elected to Full Term

He was appointed district attorney of San Francisco in 1951, the same year in which Brown became state attorney general, and won a full term the following November.

As attorney general, Lynch established a consumer bureau, investigated extremist groups such as the American Nazi Party and the Ku Klux Klan, headed a state criminal justice panel and directed his office in tackling issues of environmental control, noise abatement and air and water pollution.

In 1966, in winning a full term after serving as attorney general for two years, he became the only Democrat to remain in statewide office in the 1966 Republican sweep that put Ronald Reagan into the governorship.


“Everyone, including me, went down to defeat but him,” Brown said. “That should say something about Thomas Lynch.”

Lynch is survived by his wife, Virginia, and two sons.

Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at St. Agnes Church in San Francisco.